Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, although not everyone thinks hard enough about protecting their big ideas. In 2001, plumber Brad McCarthy got stuck on a remote beach in Cape York in north Queensland and spent about 6 hours getting his car out with a hand winch. He knew there should be a much better way. In response, he invented Maxtrax, a lightweight vehicle-recovery device for bogged off-roaders.
After designing the super-tough nylon product, he attended a Queensland Government business seminar, where the advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “One of the primary things we did was talk to How Do I Get A Patent to see how we could protect the thought,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It really is now available in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets like Australia, Europe and also the US, and the business also offers a trademark on the distinctive original “safety orange” hue it uses for its moulded product. Unlike McCarthy, however, many inventors and businesses with recommended cruel their likelihood of success from day one.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, the public or even friends. It can be considered a costly error. Bradley Postma, principal at patent and trademark attorney firm Cullens, says small and medium enterprises (SMEs), particularly, often neglect safeguarding their IP or think it will be expensive. “The majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe can be considered a particular trap for exporters because, unlike various other major markets, it lacks a grace period permitting public disclosure of an invention without affecting the validity of a subsequent patent application. That opens just how for the idea or product to be copied. “In Australia and america you can do something about this, provided you’re in a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s too late,” Postma says. “In that case, businesses have shot themselves in the foot; they’ve forfeited their rights and anyone can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that company owners often think their idea is just too easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and uncomplicated, it will likely be copied and you should get advice.”
Unitary patents on way – Margot Fröhlinger is principal director of unitary patent, European and international legal affairs on the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications annually. She recently completed a road trip warning Australian companies that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies need to innovate – and protect their inventions. “You have to have the protection of your IP and, particularly, Inventhelp Invention Ideas in order to obtain a good return on your own investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe because of complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that can lead to potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a new unitary patent system that promises as a game changer. This will make it easy to get protection in up to 26 participating European Union member states with the submission of the single request for the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, Patents, Trade and FDI in the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system has the possible ways to increase trade and foreign direct investment in high-tech sectors, delivering annual gains of €14.6 billion ($A22.8 billion) in trade and €1.8 billion (A$2.81 billion) in foreign direct investment.
Fröhlinger believes Australian businesses across all sectors have possibilities to expand into the European market, which boasts greater than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and powerful consumer demand. “It’s extremely important for Australian businesses to comprehend that there exists a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking only about patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s extremely important to have an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. Should they don’t have (IP) folks-house they need to make an effort to get strategic business advice.”
The price of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses may come as the Global Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as a amount of total trade. Basically, the measure indicates the way a country has been doing on the IP front. While Australia scores well with regards to inputs into research and development, the US (5.1 %), Japan (4.7 %) and Finland (2.9 %) easily outperform Australia (.3 percent) on IP royalties.
The message? As being a general rule, Australian companies usually are not proficient at converting research into value and treat IP nearly as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, like medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the significance of intangible assets like logo and data use, and make their briaac around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has turned into a crucial business tool and governing it is no longer just a matter of organising trademarks and Inventhelp Office. Intangible assets are rapidly more and more important than tangible assets and require appropriate consideration.
An overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Glasshouse Advisory in September 2017, endorses this type of sentiment. It reveals that 38 per cent in the companies’ value (about A$550 billion) will not be included on their balance sheets; this indicates that investors are operating without insights into a significant proportion from the corporate asset base.